George Washington Papers

From George Washington to John Hancock, 31 December 1775

To John Hancock

Cambridge 31st December 1775


I wrote you the 25th instant, Since which I am not honoured with any of your favours—the estimate I then inclosed you, was Calculated to pay the troops &a up to the first of January—that Cannot be done for want of funds in the Paymaster General’s hands—which Causes a great murmuring amongst those, who are going of.

the monthly expences of this Army amt to near 275,000 Dollars, which I take the Liberty of reccommending to the observation of Congress that their future remittences may be governed thereby.

it Sometimes happens, that persons woud wish to deposit money in the hands of the Paymaster General, for his bills on the Treasury at Philadelphia—he has hitherto declined Such offers—not haveing authority from Congress to draw—woud it not be proper to give this power? if it Should be approved of—you will please to point out the mode, that the Congress woud chuse to have it done in.1

the clothing Sent to the Quarter master Genl is Not Sufficient to put halfe our Army into Regimentals, nor is there a possibility of getting any quantity here. I have wrote to General Schuyler, that I wish what was Lodged at Albany, Coud be Spared for these troops—as General Montgomery woud cloath the men under his Command at Montreal,2 if this Can be done, it will be of infinit Service, & no time shou’d be Lost in forwarding them to this Camp.

In forming the Regiments for the new establishment—I thought it but justice, to appoint the Officers detached under Colonel Arnold, to Commissions in them—their absence at present is of very great detriment to the Service, especially in recruiting—I woud therefore wish, if the Congress intend raiseing troops in or for Canada that they Coud be taken in there—the Sooner I have their oppinion of this matter, the better—that if they Can be Commissioned in Canada, I may appoint Officers here to replace them.3

Inclosed you have Copy of a Representation Sent to me by the Legislative Body of this Province respecting four Companies Stationed at Braintree Weymouth & Hingham4—as they were never Regimented and were doing duty at a distance from the rest of the Army, I did not Know whether to Consider them as a part of it—nor do I think myselfe authorized to direct payment for them, without the approbation of Congress.

it has been represented to me that the free negroes who have Served in this Army, are very much disatisfied at being discarded—as it is to be apprehended, that they may Seek employ in the ministerial Army—I have presumed to depart from the Resolution respecting them, & have given Licence for their being enlisted, if this is disapproved of by Congress, I will put a Stop to it.5

I believe Colonel Gridley expects to be Continued as Chief Engineer in this Army—it is very Certain, that we have no one here, better qualifyed, he has don very little hitherto in that department—but if the Congress chuse to appoint him—I will take Care that he pays a proper attention to it—before I quit this Subject I must remark, that the pay of the Assistant Engineers is So very Small, that we Cannot expect men of Science will engage in it—those Gentlemen who are in that Station, remaind under the expectation, that an additional allowance woud be made them, by the respective Provinces, in which they were appointed, to that, allowed by the Congress.6

Captain Freeman, arrived this day at Camp from Canada, he Left Quebec the 24th ultmo in Consequence of General Carletons proclomation, which I have the honor to Send you herewith7—he Saw Col. Arnold the 26th—and Says that he was joind at Point au Tremble by General Montgomery the 1st instant that they were about 2000 Strong & were Makeing every preparation for attacking Quebec, that General Carleton had with him about 1200 men, the majority of whom are Sailors, that it was his oppinion, the French woud give up the place, if they get the Same Conditions granted to the Inhabitants of Montreal.

Captain Adams, of the Warren armed Schooner Sent into Marblehead the sloop Sally, bound from Lisbon to Newyork Laden with 2 pipes and 126 Qr Casks of wine—this sloop was made a prize of by the Niger man of War, Somewhere near Bermudas, the Captain of whom put his Mate & five hands on board with orders to proceed with her to Boston, the sloop & Cargo belongs to Mr Peter Barberie of Perth Amboy in newjersey.8

Captains Semple & Harbeson take under their Care Mr Kirkland who appears to be a much more illiterate & Simple man, than his Strong reccommendations bespake him—Captain Mathis & Mr Robinson will accompany them—the two Later were prisoners taken by Lord Dunmore who was Sending them to Boston, from whence there is Little doubt, but that they would be forwarded to England,9 to which place, I am Credibly informed, Captain Martindale & the Crew of the Washington are Sent, allso Colonel Allen & the Prisoners taken with him in Canada, this may account for General Howes Silence on the Subject of an Exchange of Prisoners, mentioned in my Letter to him.10

General Lee is just returned from his excursion to Rhode Island, he has pointed out the best method, the Island woud admit of, for its defence—he has endeavourd all in his power, to make freinds of those that were our enemies, you have inclosed a Specimen of his abilities in that way, for your perusal, I am of oppinion, that if the Same plan was pursued thorough every Province, it would have a very good effect.11

I have Long had it on my mind to mention to Congress, that frequent applications had been made to me, respecting the Chaplains pay—which is too Small to encourage men of Abilities—Some of them who have Left their flocks, are obliged to pay the parson acting for them, more than they receive—I need not point out the great utility of Gentlemen whose Lives & Conversation are unexceptionable, being employed for that Service, in this Army, there are two ways of makeing it worth the attention of Such—one is, an advancement of their pay, the other, that one Chaplain be appointed to two Regiments, this Last I think may be done without inconvenience I beg Leave to reccommend this matter to Congress whose Sentiments hereon, I Shall impatiently expect.12

upon a further Conversation with Captain Freeman—he is of opinion that General Montgomery has with him near 3000 men Includeing Col. Arnolds—he Says that Lord Pit, had received repeated orders from his father to return home—in Consequence of which he had embarked Sometime in October, with a Captain Green who was Master of a vessell, belonging to Philadelphia.13

By a number of Salutes in Boston Harbour yesterday I fancy Admiral Shuldam is arrived two Large ships were Seen Comeing in.

Our Inlistments now amount to 9650.

Those Gentlemen who were made prisoners of by Lord Dunmore being Left destitute of money & necessarys I have advanced them One hundred pounds Lawfull money belonging to the publick, for which I have taken Capt. Mathews draft on the Treasury of Virginia, which goes inclosed14—I have the honour to be Sir Your Most Obedt H. St

Go: Washington

P.S. you have inclosed the Returns of the Army.15

LS, in Stephen Moylan’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC item 169; copy, NjMoHP; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter on 15 Jan. and referred it to a committee consisting of George Wythe, Samuel Adams, and James Wilson (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 4:54).

1Congress granted this power on 16 Jan. 1776. See Hancock to GW, 6–21 Jan. 1776, and JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 4:60.

3On 8 Jan. Congress authorized two battalions to be formed from the troops serving in Canada. See Hancock to GW, 6–21 Jan. 1776, and JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 4:40.

4For the General Court’s representation of 26 Dec., see GW to the Massachusetts General Court, 29 Dec. 1775, n.1. The copy of that document that GW enclosed in this letter is in DNA:PCC, item 152.

5For the previous decision barring all blacks from enlisting in the new army, see item 7 for 23 Oct. in the Proceedings of the Committee of Conference, 18–24 Oct. 1775, Document II, Minutes of the Conference. On 16 Jan. Congress resolved “that the free negroes who have served faithfully in the army at Cambridge, may be re-inlisted therein, but no others” (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 4:60).

6On 16 Jan. Congress agreed to continue Richard Gridley as chief engineer if GW thought proper and authorized the assistant engineers to be paid $26⅔ a month (ibid., 60–61).

7GW enclosed two printed copies, one in English and one in French, of Guy Carleton’s proclamation of 22 Nov. ordering all persons in Quebec who refused to join the militia to leave the town within four days and “to withdraw themselves out of the Limits of the District of Quebec before the first Day of December next, under Pain of being treated as Rebels or Spies” (DNA:PCC, item 152).

8Winborn Adams recaptured the Sally on 24 December. Capt. George Talbot of the Niger had put Robert Basden, master’s mate, in command of the vessel. Jonathan Glover informed GW of the Sally’s recapture in a letter of 25 Dec., which has not been found. In a reply of the next day, which Stephen Moylan apparently wrote on behalf of GW, Glover was directed “to get information to whom the vessell & Cargo belongd—if in danger to Land the Cargo—avoid embezzelment &ca” (DLC:GW).

9For the capture of Moses Kirkland, see GW to Hancock, 18 and 25 Dec. 1775. Capt. Thomas Mathews and William Robinson (born c.1751), a member of the Virginia convention from Princess Anne County, were aboard the sloop Betsey when John Manley captured her on 17 December.

11This enclosure has not been identified.

12On 16 Jan. Congress resolved “that there be but one chaplain to every two regiments of the army at Cambridge, and that the pay of each chaplain be 33⅓ dollars per month” (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 4:61).

13For a discussion of American hopes of capturing William Pitt’s eldest son, John Pitt, see Instructions to Benedict Arnold, 14 Sept. 1775, n.5. John Pitt sailed in Capt. John Green’s vessel the Pomona and arrived at London on 2 November.

14This enclosure has not been identified. GW gave Thomas Mathews a warrant for $333⅓ on 1 Jan. (Warrant book, 10 Sept. 1775–12 Aug. 1776, DLC:GW).

15GW enclosed a return for the infantry regiments and another for the artillery, both dated 30 Dec. and signed by Haratio Gates. The infantry return is in DNA:PCC, item 152, and the artillery return is in DNA:PCC, item 59.

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